Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia


  “Nobody lets Ridley do anything. That’s just Rid. She’s a Siren. She’s…” He sighed. “Messed up.”

  Floyd folded her arms. “You deserve better. That’s all I wanted to say.”

  “I know.” He’d seen the kiss. There was nothing left to talk about. Not that Link wanted to talk about it with anyone, especially not Floyd. Ridley was done with him. You didn’t let a guy kiss you like that if you were in love with someone else.

  If she ever was.

  “You don’t understand. Any girl would be lucky to have a guy like you.” Floyd was still going.

  “Any girl?” A shooting pain pulsed from the ring through his hand. “Sweet Chees—” The subway pole jerked off its moorings on the ceiling, coming loose in Link’s hand.

  Link looked around in a panic, accidentally swinging the pole in a circle around his head. His neighbors in every direction ducked. “Sorry. No big deal. I’ll put this thing right back where it belongs.” He tried to shove the bar back up into the ceiling, but it didn’t work. “Everything’s fine.”

  He gave up and tossed the bar to the floor, kicking it beneath the row of seats next to him. Only the guy in the headphones standing closest to him seemed to care. “Way to go, jerk.” The rest of the car didn’t so much as look in Link’s direction, now that the bar was out of his hands.

  Link felt about as far away from Gatlin as he’d ever thought he could.

  He felt a whole lot of things, actually.

  His girlfriend had screwed him over, like everyone had always said she would. He’d watched her locking lips with another guy, who was—let’s face it—almost as good-looking as he was. Someone in his band was probably dying. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. His best friend was gone. His family was nuts. He wasn’t even all that sure his music was any good, for some reason.

  And I just broke the freaking subway.

  As soon as he thought it, the car lurched to a stop.

  The doors flung themselves open, and even more people flooded on.

  Link’s hand was throbbing. He felt like he could almost hear his skin sizzling. He was considering ripping the entire car apart.

  Then he looked down at Floyd.

  “This is ridiculous.” Link grabbed her hand and closed his eyes.

  She looked at him, confused. “Link? What are you—”

  He pulled her closer.

  Then it was silent, except for a familiar whirring sound, the sound of a Caster and an Incubus sliding out of a subway car, out of a crumbling tunnel, out of a rush hour crowd, even out of this dimension.

  Ripping away.

  Nobody else in the car even looked up.

  CHAPTER 29

  We Are Stars

  Ridley had never seen so many stars. Mortal constellations, as far as the eye could see. The Southern Star was nowhere in sight, but then, Ridley didn’t have her mind on anything to do with the Casters, with the possible exception of the one there with her right now.

  And the one in the photograph on the wall.

  She sat next to Nox, staring up at the darkness from the very center of the penthouse garden, lit only by the candlelight that surrounded their shared chaise.

  From the roof of the hotel, the night seemed enormous.

  I will always remember this, she thought. Prince or war. Good or bad.

  This night. How this feels.

  How I feel.

  The city below was a crazy crowd of lights beneath the dark wash of sky.

  I can look down on everyone, she thought, thinking of the little girl who could never find heels high enough.

  And it’s still too low.

  Ridley’s jacket was long gone, and the evening breeze blew her hair off her bare shoulders. She shivered.

  Nox slid his arm along the back of the softly upholstered chaise. An elaborate row of candles of every height flickered on the table in front of them.

  “This is nice.” Ridley spoke the words out into the darkness, where things like the truth could be revealed under the cover of night.

  “Nicer than expected.” He leaned his head back against the cushion. “Considering.”

  “Considering what?”

  “One Wesley Lincoln, for starters. I’m assuming it’s some kind of Southern fetish. Like fried chicken or pecan pie.”

  The joking annoyed her, and she sat up. “You assume wrong. He’s a good person, and I—” The words trailed off. She didn’t finish.

  She didn’t know what to say.

  “You what?” he pressed.

  “I care about him deeply.” The way she said it made it sound like she was talking about one of her elderly relatives. She frowned.

  “And does he care deeply about you?”

  Ridley shook her head. “Not anymore.” She leaned back. “I messed it all up. I always do.”

  Nox didn’t smile. He sounded strangely serious. “Did he feel something more than that? Is that what he told you?”

  “How did you know?”

  “Let me guess. The word love comes to mind?”

  “He didn’t know what he was saying. I’m a Siren.” She said the word carefully. Intentionally. “You know what that’s like.”

  Don’t you? Or does she, whoever she is? The woman in the picture?

  “So?” Nox studied her face.

  “So people can’t help what they say to me. You know that.” Regular people, Ridley thought. Helpless regular people.

  “What if he did? Know, I mean. What he was saying? And what if he could help how he felt?”

  “Does it matter? How will I ever know the difference? I have unnatural abilities that make people care for me. How can I ever trust anything anyone feels about me?”

  “You can’t,” Nox said slowly. “Not the good feelings. Only the bad ones. Which is why you do half the things you do and say half the things you say. To provoke the feelings you know you can trust.”

  Yes. Exactly. So I know if something is real.

  Ridley couldn’t speak. This wasn’t a conversation she had ever imagined having with anyone. The words were breathtaking. Exhausting. She’d never told a soul these things. Not Lena. Not even Link.

  What does that mean? That I can have this conversation with Lennox Gates? That he knows my deepest secret?

  She turned her face so he couldn’t see the sudden shine in her eyes.

  Nox turned to her. “You are such a Siren.”

  Ridley wiped her eye with a smile. “Am I? Like your mother?” she asked carefully. Because it was time. He would tell her now. He had to. He was as alone as she was. They were two of a kind, and this was their war. Their curb.

  The same doors had been slammed in both of their Dark Caster faces—Ridley was sure of that.

  Because Lennox Gates is Siren-born.

  He has to be.

  He’s as far from a regular person as I am.

  Ridley wondered how long she had known, in the back of her mind, and then she wondered what had taken her so long.

  Nox looked at her, surprised.

  Ridley took a breath. “Sirene? The Power of Persuasion, raging like fire through your club? Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?”

  She shivered involuntarily.

  “Come on,” Nox said. “Inside.”

  The lights were low but the fire was high. Nox sat with his back to the flames while Ridley faced them. Beneath the two Casters, the thick rug was warm and soft.

  Ridley watched him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  “That my mother was a Siren? It’s not exactly the kind of thing you go shouting from the rooftops.”

  “Why not? Is it supposed to be a secret?” She bristled. “Are we really so bad?”

  Nox leaned forward, looking disgusted. “It’s not about her being a Siren. It’s about her situation.”

  “Her situation?” Ridley shot the words back into his face. “Is that what you call it?” Her eyes blazed. “How about affliction? How about infection? Is that why you’ve never spoken of her?
You’re afraid you might catch whatever she has?” Ridley was shaking with anger.

  “That’s not what I mean.” Nox put a hand on her arm, but she yanked it away. “You’re taking this all wrong.”

  “I’m the wrong one here?” Unbelievable.

  “No, I mean, I’m saying it wrong.” He looked miserable. “Besides, I thought you knew. I thought everyone did.”

  Ridley softened a little. “Knew what? How could I know anything?”

  “The fall of the house of Gates? Come on.”

  “Tell me,” she said. This time she was the one who took his hand. “You can tell me, Nox.”

  He didn’t say anything for a long time. “I don’t know much. My mother died when I was really young.”

  “I’m sorry.” Ridley could see the sadness in his eyes. This is real. He’s not playing you.

  Nox nodded, but his eyes were faraway. “You remind me of her. The way you always seem to know that you were meant for something more than an average life.”

  Regular, Ridley thought. The word is regular.

  “My mother was meant for a better life, too.”

  “What happened?” Ridley didn’t let go of his hand.

  “She was taken from us and kept like a pet in a cage. She was never seen as a person, only as a power to be traded back and forth between powerful Casters and Incubuses.”

  As were so many Sirens before her, Ridley thought.

  “It destroyed my parents. My sister. My life.” He looked at Ridley. “How could anyone be that cruel?”

  She took his other hand. Now, when their fingers touched, they felt light and warm, and she didn’t look away.

  “I understand,” Ridley said. “I was kept in a cage once before. I’ll never let it happen again.” Her voice grew as dark as the expression on her face. “I’d die first.”

  Nox looked at her. “Do you love him? The hybrid?”

  “What does that have to do with anything?”

  “I need to know.”

  Ridley felt her anger flaring. “It’s none of your business.”

  Nox was just as angry. “Was it a cage?”

  Now she was furious. “What?”

  He forced out the words, awkwardly, one at a time. “Love. Did it—does it—feel like a cage, too?”

  She didn’t answer. Slowly, he pulled his hand away, pushing to his feet. He stood at the long wall of windows, staring out at the city.

  “Did my mother ever feel anything else but trapped? For my father or my family?”

  Ridley stood next to him. “For you?” she asked, softly.

  Now Nox was silent.

  Ridley took a breath. “He loved me. Link. I mean, that’s what he said. It’s so—it was strange.” It felt even stranger to try to put it into words, especially now. Especially to Nox Gates.

  Did it feel like a cage? Is that why I ran? Is that what love is?

  “No,” she said suddenly. “It’s not a cage, Nox.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “Love is an open door.”

  She reached around him until her arms encircled his chest and as much of his tall, broad shoulders as she could. He laid his head against her arms.

  He didn’t speak for a long moment, and when he did, his voice was muffled.

  “Ridley Duchannes, what could have possibly convinced you that you weren’t worth loving?” She could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

  Curbs and cages. This is our world.

  She didn’t begrudge it. She understood it.

  It, and him.

  Ridley shook her head. “Love, Nox, is awful. It’s painful and humiliating and it involves songs—horrible, sappy songs—about hearts breaking and tears falling and following people into dark places.”

  “Sounds pretty bad,” Nox said. She couldn’t tell if he was smiling as he said it. There was too much darkness in the room between them.

  It’s safer that way.

  “It’s like a disease, Nox. A Mortal disease. A complete loss of spine. The emotional equivalent of projectile vomiting. And way too much acoustic guitar.”

  He laughed, raising his head. “You’re killing the mood, Little Siren.”

  “Exactly. But when you’re in love, you’re not in control of what you think or say or do. And there is nothing I love more than control, and nothing I love less than not having it. So you tell me—what is a person like me supposed to do with a feeling like that?” She felt her own eyes beginning to burn.

  He sighed. “So you were lying. About the cage.”

  It was true, and it would always be the problem. Love was the opposite of power, and Ridley couldn’t stand to not have both.

  She pulled her arms away from Nox, staring out into the night. The city was so huge and so far beneath her, she felt like she was flying. She wished she could. She’d fly away and this would all be behind her.

  Nox followed her. Ridley felt him move closer to her, taking her hand in the darkness. He held it to his lips.

  She pulled it away. “Didn’t you hear a word I said?”

  “I didn’t have to listen. I could’ve given that speech myself.”

  Yeah, right, she thought. But she didn’t contradict him. Instead, she looked up at him. “I hate it. Feeling so weak.”

  “And being so wrong.”

  “What?”

  “Little Siren. Did it ever occur to you that loving someone powerful only makes you more powerful?”

  She shook her head. “No. Love is love.”

  He pushed a curl behind her ear. “It’s not.” He tilted her face toward him, pressing his thumb against her chin. “It’s so not.”

  His eyes were locked on hers, even in the darkness.

  Dark eyes, Dark Caster, dark night. Not the safest of combinations, she thought. But she couldn’t help it, any more than she could help herself.

  There was something that connected her to Lennox Gates.

  Something powerful.

  They stood together, looking out at the city, almost face to face. The lights sparkled in the distance, oblivious. He slid one hand down her bare arm. In that moment, she knew that she wanted him to kiss her more than anything.

  Kiss me, she thought. I want you to kiss me again.

  It was the feeling from the club, and it had returned full force. She felt dizzy and hot, and her lips began to burn, just as they had when he last touched them.

  For our first real kiss.

  It felt right. It felt like destiny.

  And it felt strangely familiar.

  Why?

  “Nox.” Her voice faltered. “Have we done this before?”

  What is it about wanting Lennox Gates that makes me feel like I’ve wanted this all before?

  Something about him.

  His face. I know his face.

  But then Ridley’s eyes fixed again on the photograph hanging on the wall. On a different face. She could just see it over Nox’s shoulder.

  The Siren family. The sister. The mother. Nox.

  She didn’t know why she hadn’t seen it before.

  She hadn’t been looking for it.

  She hadn’t known.

  The dark-eyed man.

  “I can’t—” she began.

  “Don’t think about the hybrid. Leave him behind,” he whispered in her ear. “Before it’s too late.”

  Ridley wasn’t listening.

  I know that man.

  In the photograph.

  She took a deep breath.

  Then she couldn’t breathe at all, because she knew who the man in the picture was. It cut through her like a sharper blade than Necro’s knife.

  The man in Nox’s family photo—right there, with Nox’s mother and his baby sister—was a younger Abraham Ravenwood.

  Abraham Ravenwood.

  Dead by Link’s hand, with my help.

  Abraham Ravenwood is part of Nox’s family.

  Abraham Ravenwood is Nox’s

  Is Nox’s

  Nox’s

  She pushed away from No
x, moving directly in front of the framed photograph on the wall. “It’s him.”

  Nox looked pained.

  Ridley was stunned. “But Abraham only had John. John would have known you.”

  “Abraham wasn’t my father. He could never be my father.”

  “And you know that because?”

  “He’s the one who kept my mother in a cage. He’s the reason my father ended his life. Abraham Ravenwood destroyed my family, and now he’s going to destroy yours.”

  Ridley wanted to rip the photograph from the wall. “I don’t believe you. I don’t know what I believe.”

  Nox grabbed her hand again. “It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to get out of here before it’s too late.”

  It sounded more like an order than a request, and Ridley didn’t respond well to orders.

  “Too late? Is that a threat?” She took a step back.

  “I didn’t mean it that way.” He moved closer. “I only want you to get away from the hybrid before something happens to you. To both of you.” Now Nox sounded as cold as she did.

  “What are you talking about, Nox?” She took another step back. “Link? Delivering a hybrid Incubus to your associates? Are we back on those threats again?”

  “It’s complicated.”

  “It always is with you.”

  “I can’t explain it, but you have to trust me. Please. I can protect you. He can’t.” Nox extended his hand, but she didn’t take it.

  “Actually, I’m starting to get the feeling that you’re the last person I should trust.”

  “You’re wrong.”

  Ridley turned away. “Exactly. What’s wrong with me? I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”

  “You’re a Siren. You’re doing what you do best,” Nox said bitterly.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” Ridley didn’t like where this conversation was going.

  “First you will meet the Sirens, who cast a spell on every man who comes their way.” Nox was quoting Homer, his voice unmistakably dark.

  He’s starting to sound like a raving lunatic, actually.

  “Stop it, Nox.”

  “Whoso draws near unwarned and hears the Sirens’ voices, by him no wife nor little child shall ever stand, glad at his coming home.”

  “I don’t do that to people.”

  “For the Sirens cast a penetrating song, sitting within a meadow. Nearby is a great heap of rotting human bones; fragments of skin are shriveling on them.”

 
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